Democracy in Egypt

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Egypt has lately gone through a democratic transition. Even while Egypt is not yet entirely democratic, the country has taken major strides in that direction. This transformation was precipitated by a protest movement that began in January 2011, which resulted in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, ending his three-decade dictatorship. This achievement appeared to be a step toward a liberal democracy, but the first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who took office in 2012, was removed from office for attempting to enforce an Islamist constitution that was too extreme, as well as allocating himself far more power than any other president in the country. 2013 saw a coup d’état being orchestrated following massive protests and immense outrage. Another presidential election was held in 2014, and Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has been president since that time. Under his rule, there is still unrest besides his government being considered to be harsh. Nevertheless, in an Egyptian perspective, the country has begun enjoying benefits brought about by democracy, primarily because they can now vote for the president they want. Through a comprehensive analysis, the democratic transition that Egypt has undergone can be understood.

The Egyptian Revolution

In 2011, an eighteen-day revolution resulted in the toppling of Mubarak’s rule of at least thirty years (Walms, 2012). January 25 was set as a police day, but several youth groups organized mass action across the country to show their disagreement with the growing police brutality during the last years of Mubarak’s rule (El-Ghobashy, 2011). Action consisted of marches, demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance, plazas’ occupation, civil disobedience, violent resistance, and strikes. The millions of protesters were all united by the demands that Mubarak be overthrown. These calls for protests began on social media platforms whereby different elements including nationalist, feminist, liberal, anti-capitalist, and Islamist were involved (Eltantawy & Wiest, 2011). In this way, they showed the world the potential that the Internet had in felling authoritarian regimes (Wilson & Dunn, 2011). The protests happened in Cairo and in other major cities across the country. The grievances comprised political and legal issues in addition to economic ones. Hence, their primary demands resulted in a culmination of the Mubarak administration, a termination of the use of emergency law, the formation of a non-military government, freedom, and justice. More pressure was put on government officials to act when labor unions joined the strikes.

This revolution saw Cairo transforming into a war zone in addition to Suez experiencing numerous violent crashes. The curfew that the government had imposed was defied since the police and military could not enforce. Mubarak attempted to suppress the rebellion in addition to appointing Omar Suleiman as vice president. He also requested Ahmed Shafik to make a new government. Later, Mubarak also announced that he would not seek re-election. On 11th February, Suleiman declared that Mubarak was stepping down, and power would be turned over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which was headed by Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (Varol, 2017). The decision to have the SCAF in charge was because it was the most respected institution (Ghanem, 2014). The military would be in power for six months pending the elections in addition to there being a suspension of the constitution and dissolution of parliament. The previous cabinet inclusive of Shafik was to serve as a caretaker government. However, Shafik had to resign since massive protests were being organized against him. Elections were then slotted for June 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood ascended to power in the country following Mohamed Morsi winning the presidency.

The Mubarak Rule

Mubarak’s regime was marred by an over-dependence on a security apparatus in addition to repressive policies being instituted. Mubarak had weakened all other secular parties with the exception of the National Democratic Party, which he was a member of. The party denied those from the opposition media access, forced talk shows that were critical were taken off the air, and opposition journalists were forced out of their jobs (Varol, 2017). Other parties thereby lacked the chance of publicizing their ideologies. He remained in power even when he surpassed an age of eighty years in addition to seeming to be grooming his son thus amplifying the tensions. Other than the politics, regarding the economic side, there was an imbalanced dissemination of the returns acquired from growth. The middle class was experiencing a sluggish growth, and the youth were not party to the economic advances. Since Mubarak seemed adamant with continuing to stay in power, a revolution was unavoidable. When he ascended to power in 1981, Egypt was categorized as ‘partially free’ with a 5 on political rights and civil liberties indexes (Ghanem, 2014). However, in his last year, the country got the ‘not free’ classification besides the score on political rights having risen to a 6 (Ghanem, 2014). This difference mirrors the deteriorating political conditions since Mubarak used the security forces and rigging of elections to stay at the helm.

2005 had seemed like the peaceful democratic evolution that the country had been waiting for. There was a constitutional change that permitted presidential elections to have multiple candidates. In previous times, Mubarak had contested unopposed. This change resulted in the presidential polls having two other candidates (Ghanem, 2014). The Muslim Brotherhood was also given the leeway to fight for parliamentary seats. However, these endeavors were unimpressive owing to the institution of several barriers that were put in the way of the presidential aspirants that would have likely won against Mubarak. The polls had massive irregularities besides having a low voter turnout. Mubarak’s conduct following these elections also put on doubt on his seriousness concerning intensifying political rights. Ayman Nour, one of the candidates in the elections, subsequently disputed the results calling for the irregularities to be investigated and a re-vote to be done. This request was rejected besides being sentenced to five years to charges of forgery, which appeared to have been trumped up (Ghanem, 2014).

2010 saw the parliamentary elections being held in November and December, which were even worse. It is considered as the most fraudulent elections to ever occur in the country’s history. The reason is that the fraud was so unconcealed that it seemed the regime was not even concerned with presenting a disguise of democracy. Egyptians, particularly the youth, had severe constraints barring them from expressing themselves. Their feeling was that their voices were not being listened to. Policies implemented by this regime allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to gain political mileage. Activist youth were looking for a movement that would accommodate them. Islamic entities also availed services to the youth such as sports facilities and libraries that the Mubarak regime had refused to deliver (Ghanem, 2014). In this way, the popularity and attractiveness of the Muslim Brotherhood intensified. The levels of corruption were also high, which increased the unfairness that was experienced in the country. Revolution was thus inevitable since the NDP was preparing for Mubarak to be a presidential candidate in 2011. Also, they were not ready for him to continue being in power or for his son to take over.

The Morsi Rule

When Mohammed Morsi was announced as the victor of the 2012 presidential elections, it elicited celebrations from all irrespective of their political leanings since they thought that Shafik would be rigged in. There was a perception of unity in the nation. Only a few weeks in power, Tantawi was fired as the minister of defense whom he replaced with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The move received great support since it seemed that the civilian president was moving towards achieving control of the military (Ghanem, 2014). His promise was that he would be fair to all Egyptians, but with time they realized that he was only pushing Brotherhood agendas (Gerbaudo, 2013). The onset of his term was also characterized by a conflict with the judiciary. Prior to the presidential elections, the court system ordered the dissolution of the lower house of parliament stating that it was unconstitutional, an order which the SCAF implemented (Ghanem, 2014). Morsi, after assuming power, attempted to reestablish the dissolved institution but it seemed to be an attack on the independence of the judiciary, which resulted in judges, media, and political entities resisting this attack. Morsi was thus forced to retreat and accept what the court had decided. Also, he tried to change the prosecutor general, and he received substantial resistance.

The battle between the two sides was often seen as the Brotherhood’s attempts of intruding on the entitlements that it was supposed to be enjoying as an independent branch of the government. Nevertheless, every judge that Morsi was dealing with was appointed by his predecessor, and thus they were contented in making the life of the new president and his Islamist following quite difficult. The battle resulted in a polarization of the society as secularists merged a united front in defending the besieged judges from what was perceived as unwarranted attacks from Islamists (Ghanem, 2014). The Brotherhood went on with the divisive battle instead of being soft, especially at the onset of Morsi’s rule (Gerbaudo, 2013).

The worst mistake was perpetrated on November 22 when Morsi introduced a constitutional declaration that contained seven articles. Article 2 stipulated that any proclamations, decrees, or laws that he gave could not be canceled or appealed by any institution in the nation in addition to making any of imminent lawsuits against him void (Ghanem, 2014). In this way, he was looking to put an end to oversight from the parliament or judiciary. Article 6 gave the president the authority to undertake any action that was fitting to safeguard the revolution and national unity (Ghanem, 2014). In so doing, Morsi was allocating himself unconstrained dictatorial powers. The response to this constitutional declaration was prompt and intense, which is described as the turning point for Morsi’s presidency (Trager, 2013). Street protests were commenced, and the protesters were met by police force leading to the death of a lot of young people in addition to many female demonstrators being sexually abused. The Brotherhood was thus likened to previous administrations owing to utilizing similar repressive tactics. Morsi was forced to withdraw and rescind the constitutional pronouncement, but the damage had already been done.

The Brotherhood went on to commit another grave error. It campaigned for a fresh constitution before the dissolution of the second assembly that was had a majority of Islamists by the Judiciary. This fear was brought about by almost all secular groupings boycotting the assembly. It was upheld by referendum conducted on December 15 and 22 (Ghanem, 2014). The approval ratings were at 63.8 percent. However, the voters that participated made up only 32.9 percent. The bulk of voters situated in the capital rejected it (Ghanem, 2014). Also, it mirrored an Islamist perspective instead of adopting a broad societal accord. It had many shortcomings such as the failure to safeguard the rights of the minorities, guarantee the equality of all sexes, and protect the press’ freedom. This Islamist vision was already being forced on the mainstream media where many leading figures in the industry had lawsuits against them on the grounds of insulting the president or being in contempt of religion. The ministry of culture also saw a conservative Islamist being appointed besides several officials being fired to push an Islamic code, which angered artist, musicians, writers, actors, and film producers.

Hence, in only a few months of Morsi’s rule, the Brotherhood had managed to antagonize a vast section of Egyptian society who felt that their voices were not being considered in the post-revolution nation. It thereby became an existential battle whereby many united to repel the Brotherhood. By the onset of 2013, Morsi’s position was not solid since he was under attack from a united opposition comprising secularists and moderate Islamists that were being backed by the judiciary, youth, media, and cultural elite (Ghanem, 2014). Large businessmen also joined the opposition since they were concerned that there was a looming major crisis for the economy. On the record, the military, police, and civil service were not taking any side. Nevertheless, these institutions were filled by individuals appointed by Mubarak thus having no trust in the Brotherhood. Therefore, when the revolutionary youth began the Tamarod movement meant to collect signatures to push for early presidential elections, their efforts received significant moral support from elites from all fields and financial backing from businesses. There is a claim that they garnered twenty-two million signatures (Ghanem, 2014). Consequently, they organized huge anti-Morsi demonstrations across the nation.

The SCAF decided to act, and it gave the ultimatum that both sides find a compromise or it would enforce its own roadmap. Morsi’s reaction was mirrored in a speech where he rejected the demands of the opposition and the ultimatum given by the military (Ghanem, 2014). His insistence was that he was a legitimate president and he was determined to complete his term of four years. However, the people were of the notion that legitimacy of a president is given by the people, and since he had failed their expectations, the people could impeach him. They were doing this by protesting. Since Morsi refused to act, July 3 saw him being deposed. The coup was led by General El-Sisi who went on to win the presidency in the elections held in 2014.

Factors Explaining the Outbreak of the Two Revolutions

Group Conflict

It is one of the valid reasons that provides an explanation for the Egyptian revolution and overthrowing of Morsi. Revolutions entail political violence that is highly organized besides having substantial popular participation whose intention is that of toppling the regime or dissolving a state (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). At the onset of the Egyptian Revolution, protests were not highly organized in addition to their objective not being the dissolution of the state. However, with time, tensions grew over the inadequacy of the Mubarak administration thereby attracting a myriad of protesters. This context of dissatisfaction crossed all societal dimensions including political, economic, and social aspects. Also, leading up to the eventual overthrowing of Morsi, there were demonstrations against his way of ruling, and in the end, there was a well-organized opposition that was composed of various societal members. However, these mass actions were not isolated or new undertakings. Prior to them, there were many years that Egyptians had engaged in the labor struggle, particularly in 2006. 2007 saw almost daily actions from workers, and in 2008 there was a vast strike perpetrated by textile workers (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). Hence, the actions as from 2011 were akin to past events in the country.

While considering the Arab Spring setting, Egypt was the second nation to erupt in mass protests. Tunisia was the first country, and it was jolted into action in December 2010 when Mohmed Bouazizi immolated himself to protest the immense corruption and harassment of the Tunisian officials. January 14, in the following year, President Ben Ali was forced to step down from the presidency, a position he had held for no less than twenty-three years (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). The revolutions in both countries share some commonalities, and they are an indication of what transpires from an explosion of highly constrained systems. The pervasive corruption throughout the Arab Spring predictably returns similar implications for citizens even in different nations thereby suggesting that revolutions could have an ideological connection besides not necessarily be geographically connected.

Additionally, political violence happens when there is room for such an undertaking. Even though political violence is somewhat unreasoning, there is a reason that backs such an action (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). In the case of Egypt, the failure of state authority was responsible for influencing mass action. Millions of people got embroiled in the democratic transition to have their economic, social, and political demands heard. Prior to the Egyptian revolution, political space was very restricted. When Morsi got into power, he seemed to be adopting the same approach of restricting the political space. The protests that occurred in both occasions mirror the anger brought about by political repression and violation of human rights.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Violent acts evoked by need are usually perceived to be valiant acts depending on those responsible for the actions. In other words, violent undertakings from those in search of freedom are taken to be heroic since they are driven by the pursuit of happiness (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). During the Egyptian revolution, violence from the police was prevalent, which led to the deaths and injuries of a significant number of protestors. There were also claims of plain-clothed officers beating protesters, the release of prisoners with the aim of terrorizing, and vehicles being used to run over the demonstrators (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). It is reported that 846 people were killed while another 6,467 were injured in the process. Additionally, during the demonstrations calling for the revocation of Morsi’s constitutional declarations, and they were met with force from the police where many were killed and several female protesters sexually abused. The Morsi administration was seen to be using the same repressive tactics to quell protests. However, even with the high degree of sustained violence on both occasions, the number of protesters only grew in number. In theory, it was expected that they would retreat instead of increasing (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). The reasoning behind the drive for protesters to act illustrated the profoundly ingrained impetus that outweighed the potential dangers of such actions.


The aspects of justification stipulated by those leading a revolution penetrate to a myriad of their followers in a disorderly amalgamation of phrases and symbols. Therefore, the slogans which emerge to rationalize violence for those involved in the strife may originate from intricate ideologies (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). Slogans that are entangled with the recollection of violence and grievance can serve at the same level or even better than the ideology meant to justify the political violence. During the Egyptian revolution, the broad support of the uprising was not only influenced by financial deprivation but also by the hunt for Aiesh, Horreya, Adala Egtemaeya, which was the pursuit of Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice (Gutfreund-Walmsley, 2012). Bread had become a symbol from as early as 2008. In March of that year, approximately twelve people had passed on while on bred lines, which outraged people. In April, there were more protests from thousands of students and unemployed citizens with high food prices being one of their grievances. Bread was also used to symbolize the massive inequality besides incorporating the broader notions of injustice. When people’s systems are inadequate to gratify their purposes, and especially when there is a disconnection owing to objectives being unattainable by old norms, they become predisposed to ideas which endorse a different approach.


The world’s media was transformed into the platform for Egyptians to organize both their revolution and Morsi’s ouster. Al-Jazeera played a significant role, particularly in the revolution, in availing a 24/7 coverage of the eighteen days of the protest thus being instrumental in widening the perspective of the international community. Social media was also employed by an array of activists to start and organize several dissension undertakings such as consumer boycotts and public demonstrations (Eltantawy & Wiest, 2011). They helped in showing the international community why Egyptians were demonstrating besides showing the atrocities that the two regimes were perpetrating on the citizens. Political leaders across the world were forced to break their alliances with the dictators.

The State of Democracy in the Country following the Two Revolutions

Egypt now holds regular elections that mirror a democratic system, but the nation is yet to embrace this institution as a way of life. There is still no freed for people to engage in civic life, safeguarding of human rights, and respect for the rule of law (Tanev, 2016). El-Sisi managed to clinch a comfortable victory owing to massive support from different groups including the SCAF, secular parties, and pro-Islamist parties. However, after his win, he progressively began eliminating the most significant opposition to him and SCAF including the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democracy movements. The Emergency law is also still in effect, which allocates more power to law enforcement authorities, suspends some constitutional rights to promote security, and permits the administration to detain people in addition to censoring and shutting down media (Tanev, 2016). There was also a referendum, which incorporated provisions from the 1971 Constitution whereby the executive was made more potent while the legislature’s power was diminished.


In conclusion, a comprehensive analysis has proven instrumental in illustrating how the democratic transition has transpired following the Egyptian Revolution. IN 2011, Egyptians orchestrated an eighteen-day revolution, which led to the toppling of Mubarak’s stay in power. It began on January 25, a day meant to commemorate the police, but the protesters used it to counter the police brutality that was being perpetrated in the country. Action entailed marches, demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance, plazas’ occupation, civil disobedience, violent resistance, and strikes. Millions of Egyptians became united in calling for Mubarak to be removed from power. They no longer wanted him in power since his regime was characterized by an over-reliance on security personnel and policies that were oppressive. He had also weakened other parties except his own. The levels of corruption and unfairness were also very high. Revolution was thus an inevitable occurrence. After Mubarak agreed to step down, an election was held in 2012, but no sooner had he settled than another revolution began. Initially, he had claimed to be for all people, but it became clear that Morsi was only interested in pushing the agendas of the Muslim Brotherhood. He made several errors such as antagonizing almost all segments of the Egyptian society who then united to push for his ouster. A new election was held after this coup, and El-Sisi has been in power since then. Several factors have been discussed, which elaborate on the outbreak of the revolutions. They include group conflict, the pursuit of happiness, bread, and technology. Nevertheless, even under El-Sisi, the country is yet to become fully democratic.


El-Ghobashy, M. (2011). The praxis of the Egyptian revolution. Middle East Report, 41(258), 2-13.

Eltantawy, N., & Wiest, J. B. (2011). The Arab spring| Social media in the Egyptian revolution: reconsidering resource mobilization theory. International Journal of Communication, 5, 18.

Gerbaudo, P. (2013). The roots of the coup. Soundings, 54(54), 104-114.

Ghanem, H. (2014). Egypt's Difficult Transition: Why the International Community Must Stay Economically Engaged. Brookings.

Gutfreund-Walmsley, E. (2012). The 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

Tanev, S. L. (2016). Means to an End: Arab Spring.

Trager, E. (2013). Witnessing a Coup in Egypt. Washington Institute.

Wilson, C., & Dunn, A. (2011). The Arab Spring| Digital media in the Egyptian revolution: descriptive analysis from the Tahrir data set. International Journal of Communication, 5, 25.

Varol, O. O. (2017). The democratic coup d'état. Oxford University Press.

May 02, 2023

World Social Issues

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